Friday, March 23, 2012

Greetings from the Regency!

As I sit here in late March suffering the aftereffects of a nasty head cold and remembering the three rules of avoiding infection (1.--Wash Your Hands. 2.--Wash Your Hands. 3.--Wash Your Hands), I can't help thinking about how people in the Regency period did things differently.

No, they couldn't cure the common cold any more than we can. And they didn't even have the benefit of knowing what caused it, because the discovery of viruses was yet to come. But they had one thing right -- they didn't shake hands. No warm handgrips between businessmen. No "pleased to meet you" hands outstretched in greeting. No hands clasped in peaceful greetings in church.

Instead, they bowed or curtseyed -- in greeting, in respect, in acknowledgement of an introduction. Dancers of both sexes wore gloves -- and even the famous kiss-on-the-back-of-the-hand was morely likely to be a brush of his lips against her leather glove, not her bare skin.

I wonder if practicing my curtsey would have kept this stuffy nose at bay...


  1. I didn't realize that even the men of the Regency period did not shake hands over the agreement of a contract. I wonder when the "handshake agreement" came into use?

    That's why I love researching history. Of course, researching history has become much easier with the advent of the internet. What the heck did we do before Google?

    We know Mr. Darcy thought highly of books, but I wonder what he'd say about computers? :D

  2. The first known use of the phrase "gentleman's agreement" (an informal agreement btween two or more parties, typically oral though it can be unspoken) was in 1888, according to Wikipedia. Though that's not exactly the same thing as a "handshake agreement", the two phrases clearly refer to the same basic thing -- so I'm guessing that "handshake agreement" dates from the same period or a little later. Can anyone add more precise information?